Dog Food Recalls
By Debbie Brookham C.P.N.
Recalls In U.S. History
The largest pet food recall in United States history happened in March of 2007. It involved 180 brands and some of the most prominent companies including Mars Inc., Del Monte, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Purina, and Iam’s Company. A total of twelve different manufacturers were affected. Tens of thousands of dogs and cats died, or fell ill from the addition of melamine.
A chemical compound was added by an overseas supplier as a means to increase protein levels in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate in kibble and canned pet food. The affected pet food companies bought their ingredients from the overseas supplier, and the toxin entered the pet food supply. After the tragic incident happened, over $12 million dollars were paid out to 20,229 claims from pet parents.
This incident forever-changed the pet food industry, as pet parents realized the importance of reading the ingredient label on their pet’s food bag. Additionally, pet owners learned to question ingredient-sourcing from the manufacturer. The FDA now requires that all animal foods be safe for consumption. All products must be manufactured in sanitary conditions and contain no harmful substances. Additionally, all animal foods must be truthfully labeled.
Congress developed the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) which required the FDA to safeguard pet food supplies. United States facilities that manufacture, process, or hold food for consumption (for humans and pets) are now required to report contamination incidents within 24 hours.
How Recalls Happen
Make sure to always save all original packaging from your pet’s food while feeding that food to your pet. If you suspect a food safety violation, you may submit a complaint to the FDA with the name of the product and a product description. It is important to have the lot number and production date to determine the manufacturing plant responsible.
The process can start when the consumer notices medical conditions in their dog. Let’s say you’re feeding your dog XYZ food, and suddenly your dog becomes sick with gastrointestinal issues. You rush to the Vet to see what is happening. The Vet tells you that she’s seen multiple clients with the same medical issue in their dogs. This is exactly why your Vet asks “what pet food do you buy?”
In the case of a potential food recall situation, your Vet can escalate the scenario to appropriate FDA representatives. Once the problem is reported to the FDA, each case is evaluated. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, the FDA will investigate it immediately, or address the concern at the next inspection of the facility making the product.
Of course, if there is a serious illness, injury or a life-threatening situation an FDA inspector will question the consumer to get more information. They will follow-up with retailers, wholesalers, or the manufacturer to find out if there have been other complaints. If the investigation concludes there is a risk to the public and their pets, a recall would be initiated to remove the product from the market. The FDA could then decide to send out a press release advising consumers of the risk of the product and to return it to the store where purchased.